World Electioneering Entertainment 2016: 1,000 Years of Energy Independence and the Greatest Con Ever? [part 1/3]
As probably anyone will attest, the greatest spectacle of the past year – if not of the past eon – has been none other than the United States presidential election, something that I now like to refer to as World Electioneering Entertainment (WEE). Because to properly understand this election (and its nascent title) requires, I believe, an understanding of the WWE – World Wrestling Entertainment. I've personally never had a liking for any of that wrestling stuff, but I am nonetheless intimately familiar with it all thanks to an old high school friend of mine – who goes by the nom de plume of Jason Sensation, but whom I knew as Jay – who has been a wrestler and impersonator in the WWE and other wrestling federations for nearly 20 years now. Follow along with this and the next two posts and – partially in thanks to my exposure to my old friend's antics and the mechanics of the WWE that he often explained to me – you'll see why I've come to the conclusion that this United States presidential election – WEE 2016 – might very well be the greatest con that any of us have ever beared witness to.
But before I get to the significance of the WWE to the WEE, a partial recap of the three presidential debates – and in particular their mention of energy – is required in order to provide some backdrop for understanding their correlation. I didn't actually watch the debates myself but rather listened to them (because I gave up making and watching film and television 10 years or so ago), which in a strange twist of events actually made a significant difference.
While moderator Chris Wallace stated in the third debate that "there is almost no issue that separates the two of you more than the issue of immigration", there is on the other hand probably no issue that more strongly bridges the two candidates – to go along with Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein – than the issue of energy. The first debate didn't cover much ground here, Hillary Clinton stating that
We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid.
Skipping over my doubts regarding the possibility of all that (which I've already repeatedly written of), Donald Trump then stated that "I'm a great believer in all forms of energy".
Jumping over to the third debate, it was stated by Clinton that "I do want us to have an electric grid, energy system that crosses borders." Although I won't examine this in detail, it's worth remembering that it was a highly integrated energy grid that in 2003 enabled a software bug and some unpruned foliage to allow for a two-day (for some a seven-day) blackout on the eastern seaboard that left 55 million people in a mad scramble over what to do with all of their melting ice cream. (If you think I'm being a bit unfair, it's worth remembering what was broadly learned from the blackout: absolutely nothing.)
Switching over to the second debate, it was here that a question directly related to energy was (surprisingly?) asked by a fellow named Ken Bone.
What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?
Roughly translated, his question was "How can we have it all?" Or rather, How can we have an increasing energy supply that doesn't pollute and which won't cause much job loss in the fossil fuel power plants that emit pollution?
In response, and in short, it was stated by Trump that "There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country". Clinton then stated that "we are now for the first time ever energy-independent". Both statements are patently incorrect, but since neither candidate disagreed with the other's statements on this I figure that we might as well lump both replies together and presume that what both Trump and Clinton believe in is 1,000 years of energy independence. Bi-partisan consensus!
For the record, and as Alice Friedmann relayed in her book When Trucks Stop Running, global coal supplies may have hit their energetic peak back in 2011, while the United States' peak in tonnage of coal will probably occur sometime between now and 2050. In regards to Clinton's statement about "energy independence", up until WWII or so the United States was in fact the world's overwhelming swing producer when it came to oil supplies and actually produced more oil than the entire world combined (why do you think the allies won WWII?). That was energy independence. But seeing how the United States currently produces about 9 million barrels of oil a day and consumes about 20 million barrels a day, perhaps it's believed somewhere in the back of Clinton's mind that Canada and Saudi Arabia are the 51st and 52nd states (which sometimes wouldn't be hard to believe).
Having cleared that up, did the media call out either candidate on their highly erroneous statements? Well...
In an interview with the New York Times, the questioner (sacrificial lamb?) that made the query on energy, Ken Bone, did turn out to be rather proud of himself: "I'm just glad I was able to spark the energy debate a little bit". Yes, well, so much debate occurred that Bone appeared on various news programs, talk shows, and even did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the website Reddit. In an interview with CNN,
CNN's Carol Costello read him a tweet arguing that he had become a meme because of a combination of "33% confidence, 33% calming demeanor, 33% hugability, 1% power stache."
So thanks to Bone's power stache the United States now has enough energy to – wait, what? Power stache? Meme? Those aren't even anagrams for energy. What's going on here?
Alright, well, it turns out that had of I watched the second debate and not merely listened to it I would have noticed that Bone was wearing a bright red sweater, a sweater which caused a sensation across the Internet and got Bone booked on various television programs. Along with
Kenneth Bone quickly bec[oming] a shorthand for all that is right about American democracy: mutual respect, caring about the issues, and the truly unifying power of a pun on the word "bone"
a Halloween costume was crafted in Bone's likeness, Bone was, of course, offered a porn contract, to go along with all the rest that comes with that 15 minutes of fame thing. Following that, and upon doing the AMA on Reddit in which he used his regular user account and not a throwaway account, much of Bone's dirty laundry was laid bare for all to see via his comment history. I won't dignify any of that gossip by rehashing it here, but it did seem important enough that rather than call out Trump and Clinton on their "misstatements" about energy supplies, the media dutifully relayed the fact that the "Bonezone" had had a vasectomy some years ago. Gripping stuff I tell you.
Anyway, this is where we get back to the macro spectacle of the WEE.
As was explained to me many years ago by my old friend of WWE notoriety, there are essentially two characters in wrestling: the hero/heroine, known as the "babyface" (or "face" for short), and the villain, known as the "heel". The "face" persona is the empathic figure that aims to garner the respect and sympathy of the audience; they are likeable and honest and are determined to overcome the overwhelming odds placed before them. The "heel" on the other hand is the unethical figure that will lie and cheat and do whatever it takes to win the match (and/or the money, the girl/guy, the power, etc.); they readily antagonize the fans and even their peers, and have a habitual streak of playing the victim. Furthermore, the "heel" never accepts the loss of a match due to an ingrained perception that a grandiose conspiracy is relentlessly working against them. On top of all that, and regardless if you're the "face" or the "heel", what matters the most in the WWE is that you get attention, and any attention is good attention (meaning it doesn't matter if the audience loves you or hates you, but that you garner a strong reaction).
In other words, and in case it isn't obvious enough, Trump's behaviour couldn't possibly fit any closer to the script and blueprint laid out for a WWE "heel": insult and deny, feign conspiracy, rinse and repeat. But while there is probably no greater student of World Wrestling Entertainment, and no person that has more shrewdly adapted it to politics than the incomparable and indomitable Donald Trump, I don't mean to imply that Trump is merely using the WWE playbook to run his campaign and ultimately win the election. No. What I mean to suggest is that Donald Trump may very well be playing out the part of a character, just as much as any run-of-the-mill wrestler does in the WWE and just as my old (wrestling) friend repeatedly did in public, the only ones in on Jay's gags and the characters he constantly acted out being his friends and the random person that recognized Jay from television and the various public events he partook in.
For starters, Trump's history with the WWE goes back to at least the late-1980s (when the WWE was known as the WWF – the World Wrestling Federation) when a casino of his in Atlantic City hosted two of the greatest events in WWE's history – Wrestlemanias IV and V. Along with being a business associate and friend of WWE's owner Vince McMahon, Trump performed in Wrestlemania 23 in a match dubbed "The Battle of the Billionaires" (otherwise known as the "hair versus hair" match) where he ended up shaving the head of a subdued McMahon. Six years later Trump was inducted into the WWE hall of fame.
I won't delve too much into Trump's antics in this post (as I'll save that for the Trump post coming up next week), but suffice to say that Trump is a media savvy political performance artist like none other and is quite possibly playing out one of the greatest roles any of us have ever seen.
Here's something relevant that Jay mentioned to me and other friends way back when and which I was able to find quoted on a website:
There was a couple of times I was doing some home shopping gigs in Canada with WWE – and this was prior to my parody as Owen [Hart] – and Triple H was at one of the shows and he came up and asked me to dress up like Bret [Hart] and make fun of him. I really didn't wanna do it, he was my favorite guy and everything. Triple H had to sit down and explain the business to me, telling me, "You can be a fan, you're not offending him, this is a job. You're getting an opportunity, you can still impersonate him for us and it can be in dedication to him even though you're making fun of him, it's just part of the gimmick."
If we can parallel that with Donald Trump, should we be so naïve as to believe that when Trump shaved off Vince McMahon's hair that he did so out of spite, or might it make more sense to realize that "it's just part of the gimmick"? Likewise, might it not be just as naïve to believe that Trump has been sincere when he's called Clinton "crooked Hillary" or even a "nasty woman" in the third debate? And how about "Little Rubio", "Lyin' Ted", "low energy" Jeb Bush, "Miss Piggie", and on and on and on? Are any of those to be taken seriously, or might it be possible that they're part of a ruse where they're also "just part of the gimmick", one where the "feud" between Trump and Clinton is entirely made up? And if it is just part of some "gimmick" (the purpose of which I'll touch on in a moment), might it then be possible that by lashing out at and/or incessantly commenting on and intellectualizing Trump's antics that our entire media, journalists, and all the rest of us observers have taken the place of the ravenous WWE audience member, giving not just Trump, but also the WEE, the attention and legitimacy sought after?
Because it's not just the WWE that follows the matrix of "any attention is good attention", but also the media in general. As Les Moonves, CEO and executive chairman of CBS, put it last year,
It [Trump's campaign] may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS... Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now?... The money's rolling in and this is fun. I've never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.
There's no doubt that Trump is well aware of this and doesn't need one bit of reminding. As he put it himself two years before he even announced his candidacy,
I'm going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I'm going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.
And that's not the bombast of some mere pretender. It's the truth being parlayed by possibly the greatest student of the WWE, one who has taken the WWE's mechanics and applied them to the biggest arena in the entire world – the ring of the United States federal election.
Jumping on the bandwagon, such things as the television show The Simpsons like to portray themselves as having warned us of a Trump presidency years ago. But on top of that being a bunch of self-indulgent nonsense, the only thing that mini-spectacles like The Simpsons have done is lay down some very useful groundwork for enabling the showmanship of Donald Trumps, thanks to its contribution to the creation of a complacent and apathetic people that is highly malleable to this "age of irony" of ours.
As was put by one of the several apologists over at Salon,
Humor is one of the primary ways that oppressed, weak, and marginalized people speak back to Power. The serf mocks the king. The worker laughs at the boss or factory owner. The slave derides and makes fun of the master. The child goofs on the adult.
True enough. As I hope this blog shows, I rather like humor (as well as humour). But while making light of the foibles of life is one thing, mockery is something else entirely – one where politics turns into theatre. While the various clowns and clownettes of late-night television pride themselves for eviscerating Trump, and while their audiences gleefully lap it all up, said clowns have accomplished absolutely nothing save for supplying Trump and the WEE with the attention and reaction they seek and require in order to legitimize what I believe to be the charade of WEE 2016.
As Barack Obama's former chief speechwriter Tweeted back in February, "if Trump is the nominee, I actually think we should fund a SuperPAC that hires professional comedians to take him down with funny ads." But as the late media-theorist Marshall McLuhan put it several years ago, "The clown is really the emperor's PR man". Otherwise put, the very modus operandi of the mocking satirist is to feed into and legitimize the roasted.
Think I'm exaggerating? Then take a look at the greatest eviscerating clown currently alive, Jon Stewart, "the most trusted name in fake news". While Stewart likes to play the role of the responsible observer that uses his razor-sharp with to take down those on high, in an infamous interview on CNN's Crosstalk he fired back at – cut off – criticism of of his actions by pointing out that "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls! What is wrong with you?" Or in other words, we're supposed to take Stewart seriously while not, well, taking him serisouly at all.
As if all that weren't enough, while it's well known that Stewart recently gave up the helm of his critically acclaimed 16-year stint as host of The Daily Show, it's not quite as well known who one of his recent employers has been. In case you need me to spell it out for you, yes, Jon Stewart has in fact been working for none other than the WWE, hosting and even wrestling in its RAW and Summer Slam events for the past couple of years. Still no word though on when Stewart and his foil will be meeting in the ring so that Stewart the clown can shave off the mane of his fellow showman, Donald Trump the emperor.
As I recently read, it's not possible to name the greatest con ever pulled off because the greatest con that ever existed was the one that nobody ever realized was actually a con. With that in mind, might it be possible that Trump is actually playing out the role of the greatest "heel" that the WWE, and now the WEE, has ever seen? If so, what I can't help but ponder over is whether or not the purpose of "the gimmick" is to create a fog of distraction over the most important issue of the day that in a strange twist of events got superseded by a red sweater, talk of a vasectomy, and, shall we say, something that the "Bonezone" "liked". In other words, inane gossip took center stage over the topic of energy supplies. Or more specifically, peaking energy supplies.
Moreover, I don't think we should expect this "feud" – this distraction – to end anytime soon. As Trump stated at the end of the third debate in response to whether he'd concede the election were he to lose, "What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense, okay?" As I'll explain further in the next post, were Trump to win the election the "feud" would essentially come to an end. But were he to lose the election, what I see as being a faux feud would be allowed to continue, thus allowing for the citizenry-cum-audience to remain properly distracted from slightly more important things like the collapse of industrial civilization.
None of this is to say though that real people won't be affected in real ways by Trump's antics. Although what's going on in the ring of the WEE may be roughly staged – I imagine that Trump is taking the lead while Clinton has the simple job of playing herself in return – at many points in the future many real people in the stands of the WEE may be incited to riot, and many real people may, to say the least, get hurt.
Alongside that, it's been postulated by John Michael Greer that upon the protracted collapse of industrial civilization the United States may see the rise of a Fred Halliot (that is an anagram). Which is, I'd say, entirely possible. But as stated by another late media-theorist, Neil Postman, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business,
[Aldous Huxley] believed that it is far more likely that the Western democracies will dance and dream themselves into oblivion than march into it, single file and manacled. Huxley grasped, as Orwell did not, that it is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcoticized by technological diversions. Although Huxley did not specify that television would be our main line to the drug, he would have no difficulty accepting Robert MacNeil's observation that "Television is the soma of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World." Big Brother turns out to be Howdy Doody.
In other words, so long as the citizenry is kept placated and gullible with its soma, what reason is there for how, or why, a Fred Halliot might emerge? However, once the lights start to go out – meaning once the televisions and movie theatres start going dark, and people start losing access to their soma – then all bets are summarily off.
Furthermore, although I think Greer is spot on with his explanation of why so many voters are gravitating towards Trump, I'm not so sure about his interpretation regarding Trump's motivations. I'll hash out those motivations a bit more in the next two posts, starting with one on Donald Trump, followed by one on the candidate who I think wasn't so much bound to be the winner of the WEE so much as she wasn't bound to be the loser – Hillary Clinton.
Having made a comparison between Donald Trump and my old friend Jay, out of fairness I'd like to add that besides being students of the WWE they are nothing alike. While Trump slurs virtually everybody he comes across, and whether they are part of a character or not, his words are given as his honest opinion of which there is no excuse for. On the other hand, the only slurs Jay ever doled out (that wasn't behind closed doors) were either upon himself or some light ribbing upon close friends.